Victims of stalking are typically counseled to ignore their tormentors. Just as trying to banish an unwanted thought invariably lodges that thought in the mind, asking a stalker to stop often yields the counter effect — a fresh round of emails, phone calls, visits or letters.
To the stalker, the contact is proof that her provocations are having the desired effect. The victim cannot shake her.
After years of ignoring his stalker, or contacting her only through law enforcement, James Lasdun has broken his silence with the recent publication of his first nonfiction book, “Give Me Everything You Have.” The book tells Lasdun’s story of being harassed and, later, threatened, by an anti-Semitic former writing student of his.
If ever his stalker, whom he refers to by the pseudonym “Nasreen,” doubted her effect on him, this book should put her concerns to rest. Lasdun experiences the typical symptoms of being stalked: paranoia, sleepless nights, fear, self-doubt and the nagging feeling that he did something to bring on Nasreen’s unwanted affection and, later, hatred.
Over the course of the book, Nasreen becomes almost a mythic force, and Lasdun is compelled to deal with questions of his own reputation, honor and identity — themes that appear, not coincidentally, in his poetry and novels, such as 2003’s “The Horned Man.”
“Give me everything you have,” Nasreen demanded in an email that became the title of the book.
“I feel like at some kind of psychological level, she got it,” Lasdun told me.
Lasdun, a 54-year-old Jewish writer from England, wrote the book in less than a year, working on his computer in the small, furnished office at the back end of a cavernous barn on his Woodstock, N.Y., property where he lives in a 19th-century farmhouse with his wife, Pia Davis, and their two children.
When I interviewed Lasdun there in late January, the office walls were lined with books; they overflowed onto dusty Persian rugs on the floor. A three inch-thick stack of Nasreen’s printed emails — crumpled and clipped in bunches — lay next to the desk.